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New Hardy to break ground soon

Construction of a new Hardy Elementary School is on track to break ground in March 2021.

The new school, modeled off Florence Bowser Elementary in Suffolk, is intended to house upwards of 800 students in grades PreK-4. But the two schools will not be exact duplicates in appearance, as illustrated by architectural renderings on Isle of Wight County Schools’ website.

“The renderings are just preliminary drawings,” said division spokeswoman Lynn Briggs. “There will be modifications to the plans to better serve the division’s needs.”

The school division solicited proposals from construction companies in October, with a due date of 3 p.m. Nov. 23. Isle of Wight’s School Board plans to evaluate the top three to five proposals for the construction phase of the project in December and select one. By this time, each of the three to five finalists will have submitted a guaranteed maximum price for the work.

In January, the School Board plans to meet jointly with the county’s Board of Supervisors to agree upon a final maximum price. Construction is projected to be complete by December 2022, with the school opening in January 2023.

“In March, construction begins, and we are putting shovels in the ground and a new Hardy is going to become a great reality for our community,” said Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton in a video update on the project released to the school division’s YouTube channel on Oct. 30.

In September, the Board of Supervisors voted to borrow $36 million, about $27 million of which is earmarked for the Hardy project. Even though it may result in a 4-cent tax increase, all Isle of Wight residents who spoke during the county’s public hearing on the matter in September said they favored the county taking on the additional debt if it meant replacing the existing 1960s-era school.

In October, the Board of Supervisors learned from county officials that an additional $2.2 million would be needed to buy reverse-osmosis treated water from the town of Smithfield to supply the new school and surrounding community. The well serving the current Hardy is high in fluoride — not over the federal maximum but high enough that reusing it for new construction isn’t an option.

Even though the division now has preliminary renderings of the new school, there are no changes to the estimated project cost, Briggs said. The new school will be built in back of the current Hardy Elementary while the old school is still in use. The old Hardy will be demolished when the new school opens.